We learned so much from authors like Joe Mish and Joe Sapia who share observations of the natural world in our on-going “Voices of the Watershed” series. We are grateful for regular information-sharing from Streamkeepers and civic science volunteers, including writers Margo Persin and Howard Swerdloff. Folks like Rutgers doctoral candidate Kate Douthat teach us about plants and hydrology and stormwater flows through focused blog series. And student interns TaeHo Lee and April Callahan did a great job developing interviews with LRWP Board Members and others active in the watershed.
The following are the most read / viewed web pages on the LRWP website in 2019:
Article by Howard Swerdloff, New Brunswick Environmental Commission
On Saturday June 8, 2019, the Elmwood Cemetery hosted their first annual “BioBlitz.” (A“BioBlitz” is an event that focuses on finding and identifying as many species as possible in a specific area over a short period of time.) The event was sponsored by the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership (LRWP), the Americorps Watershed Ambassadors Program, New Brunswick Environmental Commission, North Brunswick Environmental Commission, and the Elmwood Cemetery.
Over 4 dozen area “citizen scientists” and experts scoured the 50 acre site identifying and cataloging the fish, mammals, insects, aquatic invertebrates, fungi, plants, and birds. They identified 8 species of fish; 8 species of mammals; 47 species of insects; 15 species of aquatic invertebrates; 20 species of fungi; 37 species of plants; and 42 species of birds (the latter are catalogued on E-bird: https://ebird.org/nj/view/checklist/S57201308 ) — a total of 177 different species.
The event inspired many two-way conversations between our community participants and the volunteer scientists. Instead of a didactic “top down” learning experience, both groups shared their knowledge and understanding of the local environment in a way that enhanced the specialized knowledge of the expert scientists, and, in turn, the expert scientists helped community volunteers develop a deeper knowledge and appreciation for the natural world and local environment. The experts’ final reports will be ready in a month; their findings will be shared with the volunteers. Elmwood Cemetery plans to make a Bioblitz an annual event.
Elmwood Cemetery, a Special Forested Habitat Refuge The cemetery is nestled between the New and North Brunswick communities. It was established in 1868 as a “Victorian Garden Cemetery” during the rural cemetery movement, and to this day all of Elmwood’s lanes and paths are lined with evergreens and flowering native trees. Cemetery managers are building on this legacy of careful planning and land protections to secure Arboretum accreditation, which will allow them to further advance the planting, study, and conservation of woody plants and trees in the area.
Article by Rutgers Raritan Scholar Intern Allie Oross
On Saturday, July 7th, the LRWP led the New Brunswick Environmental Commission and other members of the New Brunswick community in a project on the Redmond Street side of Lord Stirling Elementary School. The final product of their hard work is manifested in a whimsical sidewalk mural that not only serves as a form of neighborhood beautification, but also a semi-permanent reminder of the intricate roles human’s play in the environment.
New Brunswick Environmental Commissioners, residents and LRWP friends paint flowers
Funded through an Americorps alumni grant secured by Thalya Reyes, and designed by former Americorps alum Johnny Malpica, interwoven swirls paint a picture of natural necessities that are integral aspects in every single person’s day to day life. In the mural, clouds create rain drops that collect to form a pulsing river. That river then flows into a set of flowers being pollinated by a bee and a butterfly with the next section displaying a fish in the river. Though the images are depicted in a delightfully playful and abstract manner, each can also be interpreted as a representation for a much more crucial concept:
We, as a community and as a species, must never forget how inextricable we are from the environment. You cannot have one without the other, and though we may seem separated from nature, the gap is almost always smaller than we may think.
New Brunswick Environmental Commissioner Howie Swerdloff paints a river
A few blocks down from the sidewalk mural is the Raritan River. A core purpose for the mural is to act as an expression of the course stormwater runoff takes through the New Brunswick streets every time it rains. After rain events our streets often serve as veins pumping litter and pollution into the heart of our waterways. Out of sight should never mean out of mind when discussing the environment, and the mural engages citizens to remember there is nature all around us if we only make the effort to search for it.